The Green New Deal: An Impractical Attempt to Save the Environment

Yishi Wang, Staff Writer

The Green New Deal (GND) has recently been the talk of the town. Connected to environmentalist groups, such as the Sunrise Movement, and sponsored by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York’s 14th district and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the GND suggests that the federal government needs to seriously address the physical damages and the racial and socioeconomic inequality that stems from climate change. Not only did the proposal gain massive support from influential politicians and 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, but it also gained prominence on social media and successfully recruited many young environmental activists to fight for its cause.

Despite its promise, the Green New Deal movement sets impractical objectives. H.Res. 109, a resolution submitted by Ocasio-Cortez to the House this February, is filled with idealistic goals, such as “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” and ensuring “zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing” in the near future. However, a study conducted by the Rhodium Group suggests that U.S. energy demand—and consequently, carbon emission—increased significantly in 2018, with power produced from coal and natural gas power plants constituting the majority of consumed energy. Although not impossible, the fact that the U.S. economy and society are still largely dependent on fossil fuels indicates that any plan to replace all non-renewable energy would be extremely expensive and unfeasible. In fact, the American Action Forum estimates that the technical portion of the GND can cost anywhere from $8.3 trillion to $12.3 trillion. Considering the federal government’s pre-existing financial troubles, this massive budget would require new taxes, which would certainly cause some to oppose the GND. As such, the wonderful intentions of the GND are undermined by its unrealistic target.

The Green New Deal also suffers from the significant partisan divide. Right off the bat, it is not difficult to notice that support for the GND is almost exclusively liberal. This partisanship is even further dramatized by the active opposition of many powerful Republicans, specifically President Trump, who has recently denounced both Ocasio-Cortez (referring to the senator as a “young bartender”) and the GND (stating, “If [Democrats] beat me with the Green New Deal [in the 2020 presidential election], I deserve to lose”). Moreover, even some respected Democrats refuse to endorse the GND, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who dismissed Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, likely due to a conflict of interest. These political skirmishes around the GND distract from the real urgency of the environmental damages related to climate change and sabotage efforts to make meaningful policy changes.

When first reading about the Green New Deal’s aim to de-carbonize the U.S. economy, I was thrilled. However, as I read more about its far-reaching goals and the strong opposition from both Republicans and Democrats, I became less optimistic. Unless these politicians and environmentalists can make their objectives more realistic and appeal to a broader political spectrum, the Green New Deal will only paint vague pictures of hope for the future.